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Dr. Dian Chin Kit-Wells

“To teach children is to learn the song that is in their hearts and sing it to them when they have forgotten."  -Thomas Chandler                               

Dr. Dian Chin Kit-Wells
 Dr. Dian Chin Kit-Wells

Dr. Dian Chin Kit-Wells is a professor and clinician of pediatric and community dentistry. She is a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, where she completed her Doctorate of Dental Surgery, a general practice residency and her specialty training in pediatric dentistry. Prior to her education here in the U.S., Dr. Dian was a school dental nurse in remote villages in Trinidad and Tobago. She decided on dentistry as a profession because of her love for health care and desire to make a difference, especially where health equity is a concern. 

Currently, Dr. Dian teaches community dentistry courses, runs programs, chairs committees, conducts public health research, mentors students of many disciplines and, of course, serves as a Give Kids A Smile Ambassador. She credits her program successes to strong community partnerships and resources. As discussed during a poster presentation at the recent APHA meeting, her Give Kids A Smile program seeks to be of service to populations often overlooked throughout Western New York. These populations include refugees, adolescents, children with poor access to care, and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Dian is known for linking local programs, such as the Mayor’s Clean Sweep, and national programs, such as Special Olympics, into her Give Kids A Smile events. Knowing that the number of dentists who treat those with intellectual and developmental disabilities is low, she held a gathering of local healthcare and education leaders in 2016. Out of this meeting came a collective effort to provide more dental resources for Buffalo’s special needs population. One such event is Give Kids A Smile, a program that Dr. Chin Kit-Wells sees as much more than a free day of dental care. Give Kids A Smile provides education, exposure and desensitization to both the patient and the provider. But more than that, it’s a movement in kindness and inclusivity for the whole community, not just those who volunteer.

Dr. Dian’s 2019 program will be no exception. It will include a slew of events, including one at a school for young children with severe disabilities and a second to honor Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies Inc./Down Syndrome Parent Group of Western New York (DSPWNY). An interdisciplinary team, made up of medical students and PT/OT specialists, will be on hand to assist pediatric dentists in the delivery of optimal care.

When Dr. Dian is told she’s as dedicated to social work as she is to pediatric dentistry, she’s quick to smile. It’s her mission to help all children, from Western New York to her hometown in Trinidad and Tobago where it all began. Someday, she’d love to host an inclusive international Give Kids A Smile event.

Organization through which your Give Kids A Smile program takes place:
The Department of Pediatric and Community Dentistry at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine sponsors our Give Kids A Smile program with support from practice plan satellite offices, community partners and the Pediatric Dental Residency Program.
The duration of your involvement in the GKAS program:
I have been involved in Give Kids A Smile from its inception in 2002, when the director of the Pediatric Dental Residency Program was Dr. Paul Creighton. It was important to him that we as a dental school reach out to those in need in the community and quickly follow in the footsteps of Drs. Jeff Dalin and B. Ray Storm. Fortunately, at the time, we were establishing a close relationship with the Head Start and Buffalo Public Schools, and their health advisory committees excitedly accepted an invitation to participate in our very first Give Kids A Smile event. We saw less than 100 children on that first day, but our program has grown to see up to 800 children and offer a full range of dental services that extend giving throughout the year.

Why do you participate in Give Kids A Smile programs?
My heart will have it no other way. I almost lost the ability to participate in 2018, when doors seemed to want to close. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of me, but when your heart leads, you will find a way to do what you most desire. I desire to be of service; Give Kids A Smile is my tool for doing so.

Why is the Give Kids A Smile program important?
This is a movement in the opposite direction of the self-absorbed, instant self-gratification era that is occurring. It is needed so that we remind others and ourselves of the true core and essence of life – to form relationships that are healthy and help each other be healthy. Oral health, as we know, has a direct link to total health and well-being. There are still so many who need our attention and access to care, and those of us who can provide that need to train and set an example for those upcoming so that there is sustainability and hopefully, one day, no longer a need. I see Give Kids A Smile as a way to change any negative views of dentistry and replace them with the image of goodness and kindness.
Please tell us a story about how your Give Kids A Smile program helped a child/children in need.   
There are so many stories I could tell, but the one I am choosing to share is of a young boy from China with parents who were research students at the University at Buffalo. The parents met the child in the clinic, since he came in with his school for the event. When they saw him, their faces wore such concern as their son had been in severe pain and they had little direction on where to turn for help. The child was also terrified, despite our students’ attempts to nurture him with puppets and teddy bears. Once our pediatric dentist took a look, we knew the right thing to do was not one procedure and ignore the rest, but to treat this child as we would our own child. This is what we teach our students. We practice what we teach. With the help of our patient facilitator and much discussion with the local children’s hospital, we were able to schedule the little boy for treatment under general anesthesia, extracting the primary abscessed teeth and repairing those that were restorable. Every year since, our facilitator receives a lengthy letter describing how the child is doing and thanking our Give Kids A Smile team. The pictures of the child’s healthy smile as he is now growing up says it all.

I have to mention that my second favorite story is one of a teenager in a wheel chair, waiting in line for treatment with everyone else. I went to him to move him up in line right to the front, but he refused my offer and asked if he could stay in line waiting – just like everyone else. Point well taken. I gave him a hug and said, “thank you for the lesson.” We are always learning!

Read more history of Give Kids A Smile.

Read the GKAS 15th Anniversary Gratitude Report.
Donate to Give Kids A Smile.